Washington State health, political leaders aim to build trust in BIPOC communities


Shane Ersland


Washington State health and political leaders discussed methods for building trust in Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) communities Thursday.


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Sen. T’wina Nobles (D-Fircrest), American Indian Health Commission for Washington Director Vicki Lowe,  Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs Director Maria Siguenza, and Washington State Department of Health Secretary of Health Dr. Umair Shah discussed health care in BIPOC communities during a Department of Health webinar held to recognize National Minority Health Month.

Nobles said the way messaging is delivered is important in building trust in BIPOC communities. For example, organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People saw success when informing Black communities about the importance of vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.

“A lot of the work around vaccines has been using trusted messengers,” Nobles said. “Having institutions of people we already trust, and to hear from people we trust. Representation is critical.”

Siguenza said a variety of different languages should be utilized in distributing health materials.

“Accessibility is important; translating materials to Spanish or Vietnamese or other languages that have been top languages,” Siguenza said. “We have a lot of work to do when it comes to indigenous languages in America. We have work to do so we can have information with minimal text and more pictures; videos that feature those languages.”

The distribution of inaccurate health-related messages contribute to mistrust as well, Shah said.

“I think there are a myriad of issuesdiabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, COVID, AIDSfocused on misinformation that is systematically targeted to BIPOC communities. How do we build trust back when there’s so much information out there that is just wrong? How do we engender trust?”

Institutional racism within health care agencies needs to be addressed, Lowe stated, saying,“Oppression is what’s killing our people.”

Perception is critical in correcting institutional racism, Nobles said.

“We have to have providers who are honest about trauma, and how it connects to our interactions,” Nobles said. “How folks perceive us has a lot to do with this country’s institutional racism. How the journey to healing, treatment, and repair is connected to our race and ethnicity. The providers, the treatment, the conversations have to be honest about the intersection of race and trauma; of race and mental health.”

Health care is part of a broad spectrum of needs—including stable housing, food security, and access to education—that need to be addressed in order to help BIPOC community members become healthier, Siguenza said.

“We know having basic needs are factors that lead us to have a healthy and comfortable life,” Siguenza said. “As we work toward improving social determinants of health, we need to make sure we’re centering the voices of those most affected. We need to be working on mitigating these factors. If not, we’re perpetuating these systems within our communities.”